Few WPIAL sprinters were in Taylor McCorkle's league the first month of the track season.
Still, McCorkle's times weren't meeting her lofty standards.
One meet changed all of that.
McCorkle, an Oakland Catholic senior, hopes an excellent performance at last Saturday's South Fayette Invitational will serve as a springboard to her "doubling" in the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the WPIAL Class AAA championships later this month.
A Hill District resident, McCorkle must have felt like she was running downhill at South Fayette.
She not only won the 100 and 200 titles, but also posted season bests in both events -- 12.11 in the 100 and 25.11 in the 200. Only one Class AAA runner, West Allegheny's Lauren Costa, has run the 200 faster this season. Hempfield's Jasmine Jones is the lone Class AAA runner to run the 100 faster.
"[The meet] was a good sign for me. It gave me more confidence that I could win WPIALs this year," McCorkle said.
The outcome at South Fayette was significant for another reason, too. In winning the 100 title, McCorkle edged out Costa (12.37), the reigning WPIAL champion.
"I had never beaten her [in the 100] before, so that meant a lot to me," said McCorkle, who also clipped Costa (25.40) in the 200.
The preceding two months had been a challenge for McCorkle, this after she suffered a shin contusion playing basketball in early February. The bruise was so deep that McCorkle said her doctor told her that she might have been better off breaking the bone.
But despite being told that the injury would take about two months to heal, McCorkle was still excelling. At the Mt. Lebanon Invitational on March 29, McCorkle won the 100 and 200. In a more loaded field at the Tri-State Track Coaches Association championships a week later, McCorkle placed third in both events.
"I still thought I would be running faster than I was," McCorkle said.
Now McCorkle has regained the form that led to an outstanding junior year. McCorkle placed second in the 100 and 200 at the WPIAL championships, and fourth in those events at the PIAA championships.
McCorkle's rivalry with Costa and Jones has been fun to watch. Both were a thorn in McCorkle's side, however, at last year's WPIAL championships. McCorkle (12.31) was narrowly defeated by Costa (12.27) in the 100. In the 200, McCorkle (25.35) fell just short of besting Jones (25.29).
"We're all friends," McCorkle said. "We were all at the indoor state meet [at Penn State]. We talk all the time. There are no bad feelings toward each other. Lauren is really good at the 100. Jasmine is really good in the 200. But we've all beaten one another."
McCorkle has high hopes for her school's 400 and 1,600 relay teams. She runs a leg on both. The 400 team placed second at the South Fayette Invitational. McCorkle's teammates included freshman Grace Alexander and sophomores Jayla Coppetta and Olivia Rowe.
George Rudolph has often called McCorkle one of the best athletes he has coached in his four decades at Oakland Catholic and its predecessor, Sacred Heart.
Still, as good of an athlete as McCorkle is, she might be an even better student. McCorkle owns a 4.6 grade point average and will head to the Ivy League this fall when she begins classes at the University of Pennsylvania. McCorkle plans on majoring in biophysics.
McCorkle will also run track at Penn and is looking forward to competing at Franklin Field, the home of the prestigious Penn Relays.
"I think it's really cool because the Penn Relays are a really big thing," McCorkle said. "I just can't wait to be in that atmosphere."
Her No. 1 goal right now is to bring home some gold medals from the WPIAL championships on May 15 at Baldwin High School.
"It would mean a lot to me because my goal is to win WPIALs," McCorkle said. "It would mean everything. That would be the best."